Stroke possible at any age

It has long been established that the older a person gets, the greater the risk is for stroke. The probability doubles in each decade after a person reaches age 45 and 70% of all strokes occur in those over age 65. But stroke can occur at any age. From pediatric stroke in children to young adults and those in middle age, stroke is a possibility. Nearly 800,000 strokes are reported each year. Not only is stroke the fifth most common cause of death, it is the leading cause of adult disability and can dramatically disrupt quality of life.

Risk factors

Stroke occurs when oxygen flow to the brain is prevented. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a burst brain aneurysm or a blood vessel leak. Both cause pressure on the brain and cells and tissue are damaged.  The most common type of stroke is ischemic, caused when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of all strokes.

Among causes of death in children, stroke ranks in the top ten. There are several contributing factors. They include congenital heart disease and blood clotting disorders, as well as autoimmune disorders and sickle cell anemia. Moyamoya syndrome, a rare condition that blocks arteries at the base of the brain, and arterial dissection (a tear in the lining of the artery), can also lead to stroke in children.

For young adults, heredity can play a part is stroke probability. Those with a family history of stroke are more at risk. High blood pressure (hypertension) becomes more likely as people age. If a young person is diagnosed with hypertension, a major cause of stroke, the risk increases.  Atrial fibrillation (AFib), or an irregular heart rhythm, is also a factor. Additionally, lack of exercise, cigarette smoking and poor diet also contribute.

Aside from medical and lifestyle influences, some psychological factors are associated with increased risk of stroke. The National Institute of Health reports that beginning around middle age, depression can cause an increase in stroke probability. Environmental and personal issues, such as job and marital stress, are also in the mix. One possible reason is that these issues sometimes trigger unhealthy behavior, such as an increase in smoking or lack of diligence regarding diet.

Stroke prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about eighty percent of strokes are preventable. Some prevention methods fall under the category of “common sense,” but are often the most overlooked. Regular checkups with a physician or cardiologist monitor changes in heart rate, blood pressure and other physical conditions that contribute to stroke. It is also important to take medication properly and consistently under a doctor’s supervision. Watching diet, making sure to exercise, not smoking and using moderation in alcohol consumption are also practical and proven ways to help prevent stroke.

Treatment

Nearly seven million people in the United States have survived stroke.  However, the sooner treatment begins, the better the probability of a successful recovery. Immediately following a stroke, a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may be administered via IV (intravenous therapy). This dissolves a blood clot and restores proper blood flow to the brain.

If a tPA is not in the best interest of the patient, the cardiovascular surgeon may insert a tube into the blocked artery. The tube traps the clot and either dissolves it or allows the surgeon to remove it.

In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, the source of the bleeding in the brain is identified. Then, surgical clips or coils are used to stop the bleeding and allow the cardiologist to remove the injured blood vessel.

To learn more about stroke treatment and prevention, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.